NEWS RELEASE · 14th September 2010
BC Liberal Government Caucus
The all-party Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives has opted to give all British Columbians a direct say on the Harmonized Sales Tax through a referendum, one of the two options available to the committee under the Recall and Initiative Act.
"As the Premier has maintained, the question for the committee has always been which of the available options is the most appropriate way to give British Columbians a say on this issue," says Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake, chair of the legislative committee. "The Committee has now reflected on that and determined that most British Columbians want a direct say on this matter. While it's true that 18 per cent of registered voters signed the petition, more than 80 per cent of British Columbians did not participate in that process. A referendum will ensure all British Columbians will have their voices heard as to whether or not they support the HST."
The decision by the Select Standing Committee means there will be a province-wide referendum in September 2011. In keeping with the law, the committee has now referred the petition and draft legislation to the Chief Electoral Officer, who will work with the government to ensure the referendum is conducted in a way that ensures public confidence in the process.
Further, Premier Gordon Campbell has stated while the law has a specific "double majority" threshold for the referendum to pass, the government will feel obliged to honour the people's will based on a simple majority of votes cast. "If the majority of people who show up at the polls next September are opposed to the HST, I think we have to say we're going to get rid of the HST and get on with building the future of the province," said Premier Campbell.
"British Columbians have said clearly that they want to be involved in the decision regarding the HST and a referendum is the best way to ensure that everyone has a say," says Lake. "I'm confident that as people learn more about the HST and how it creates jobs, increases wages and grows our economy they will vote in favour of keeping the HST, but ultimately it will now be up to the people to decide.
"I'd like to thank the committee for their quick work in coming to this decision and look forward to the public debate ahead."